There are a number of criteria that tennis parents use who are trying to understand the college tennis recruiting process. For the most part, men’s and women’s college coaches will research a player’s UTR, tennisrecruiting.net, and USTA rankings. Each college coach has their own unique evaluation process and priorities. There are other important factors, like meeting a minimum academic standard, good personality fit with the team, work ethic, etc. The first thing a coach will look at is the high school player ratings and metrics for their tennis results. This post will focus on that part of the coach analysis.
Tennisrecruiting.net was the premiere metric prior to UTR, and is still an integral part of the coach’s analysis. It ranks players either blue chip (top 25 nationally) or with stars (1-5, with 5 stars being the best). Tennisrecruiting.net uses the grade level and gender to rank high school players in a way easy to understand by college coaches, who can refer to a recruit as a three star or four star, similar to the way high school football and basketball players are described.
Untied States Tennis Association
USTA (United States Tennis Association) rankings are also a prominent part of the process for many coaches. It places the players in a ranking order, according to the points they acquire from winning matches in USTA tournaments. It is the opinion of this blogger that USTA rankings can frequently be skewed in favor of the kids who play the most events. USTA rankings are the only metric of the three where a player gets a boost if the opponent withdraws from a match, even prior to walking on the court.
Universal Tennis Rating
UTR stands for Universal Tennis Rating (UTR). It was developed in 2008 and has grown in popularity quickly due to its ability to rank players across age, gender, and even nationality. With the advent of UTR, college coaches can use a metric to compare players across the world. While there is no such thing as a perfect metric, UTR is the most accurate and detailed index of players’ tennis skill and past results. Players are rated between 1-16. For high school players interested to determine if they are qualified to play for certain colleges, comparing their UTR to the players on the team is a great place to start. For example, a player with a UTR of 9 is an excellent high school player but would not be competitive at a top tier division 1 college (such as Florida or Virginia) where the players generally range from 13-15. If you have never familiarized yourself with UTR, visit their web site.
UTR is the only one that considers the score of the match in determining the player ranking. This is good because if a player loses a close match to another top player, UTR will give the player credit for being close. Both tennisrecruiting.net and USTA rankings do not give any credit for a loss, no matter how close it is. One of the unique aspects of UTR is that a player’s ranking can go up even when the opponent wins the match. For example, if a UTR 6 plays a UTR 8 and loses 7-6 7-5, the UTR of the UTR 6 player will rise.
One big mistake I see is parents and kids who focus too much on the metrics at a young age. While it is certainly important during the junior and senior years of high school to have ratings/rankings that are attractive to college coaches, it is not nearly as important in the earlier years. Yes, tournaments are selecting players now based upon their USTA rankings and UTR (not tennisrecruiting.net, though), but the most important two things for parents and their tennis playing kids are to focus on improvement and enjoyment. There are some kids who avoid valuable experience due to a fear of losing to a lower ranked player. That impedes progress and damages development. There are other kids who “burn out” from excessive stress about match results. The kids who improve the most are the ones with a balanced outlook on the process of developing tennis skill over a long period of time. Match results are a barometer but should not be considered paramount in importance. Many times, the difference between winning and losing is minuscule, so defining a win as a success and a loss as a failure is short sighted.
Finally, a word of advice from a fellow with three collegiate players: enjoy the process! The time spent with practice and traveling for competition is amazing bonding time, and will provide memories to last a lifetime. Keep it fun, stay positive, and be proud of the way you handle adversity along the way. Bouncing back from a less ideal result is one of the best life lessons anyone can learn, so remember all of the good that comes out of the long process toward improvement.
Interested in playing in some tournaments to boost your rating? Check out our blog page to see what is happening monthly at the club!
Wembley’s Club Coordinator. Passionate about pickleball, tennis, horses, fitness, along with many other things! Loves working for the club, and seeing the growth! Go Cavs!
Nice overview. I would say, however, that a focus on ranking in earlier years is, sadly, necessary, in my opinion. Higher level USTA tournaments are only open to highly ranked players, and a percentage of national USTA points carry over to higher age divisions, which can be very important as kids age out of one division to the next. It’s a continuous progression. Then there’s politics and who you know, just like every other part of life, and some of this can be very unfair.
I think UTR is a nice development, but I wish it was a bit more transparent.